Commitment-based Management™ (CbM)

Commitment-based Management™ (CbM) is simple and powerful. It has people managing other people through the promises they make to each other. In Commitment-based Management™, people make promises voluntarily after a request and active negotiation: “I can’t do that, but I can do this.” The promises are explicitly for results, not for pursuing tasks. For example, “I promise that I will increase revenue from our widget sales by 20% by the end of the year without additional costs.” “Or I promise to have that presentation at board-level quality to you by 5 PM.” Not, I promise to work really hard on raising revenue or composing the report.

Once a performer makes a promise, the performer reports any surprises that might affect delivery to the “customer,” who received the promise. The customer, likewise, reports any changes in conditions. As surprises occur and conditions change, the promise gets renegotiated. When the performer asserts the promise is fulfilled by delivering the result, the customer declares satisfaction or dissatisfaction with care. Note, fulfilling a promise is not the same as fulfilling the terms of a contract. The point is always to make the customer happy, just as we do with external customers. Note, too, as in life, promises in business go up and down and across the hierarchy.

What does Commitment-based Management™ do for results.

It will raise productivity, typically in the neighbourhood of 20%; at our most efficient client, Commitment-based Management™ raised productivity 5%. The client said it could not be done. Improvements in morale are larger.


Why does Commitment-based Management™ work.

Most people try to keep promises, especially when they actively negotiate them. They co-create a new ethical duty. Two other features help. First, we like it when the promises of members of teams are public. That way people know what others are doing; people ask for help when they need it, and others are prepared to help out. Second, when customers make sure that performers understand the relation of the promise to fulfilling the organization’s mission, people feel they doing something noble. They take pride in what they do.

Who invented Commitment-based Management™?

In the 1980s, Dr. Fernando Flores invented it in association with Professor Terry Winograd at Standford and Professors Hubert L. Dreyfus and John Searle at U. C. Berkely in the 1980s. See his early essays here. More recently, Professor Donald N. Sull of MIT and Charles Spinosa published an article on Commitment-based Management™ in the Harvard Business Review in 2007.

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